The Bakgatla-Baga-Kgafela in the Pilanesburg district of the Western Transvaal from 1899 to 1931
Mbenga, Bernard Kachama
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The Bakgatla-baga-Kgafela have lived in the Pilanesberg region, western Transvaal, since the 18th century. From c.1825 to the 1830s, they faced two important experiences, the difaqane upheaval and the Voortrekk:er incursions. From 1864, another major influence among the Bakgatla was Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) activity which introduced Christianity and the rudiments of Western education. However, forced labour on Boer farms, a major Bakgatla grievance, resulted in the flogging of their chief, Kgamanyane, and his emigration with more than half of his people to present-day Botswana. During the South African War, in which the Bakgatla fought against the Boers, they looted many thousands of Boer cattle, with which they purchased more farms (about seventeen between 1903 and 1920), than any other group in the Pilanesberg. After that war, despite strong government objections at first, the Bakgatla chief, Linchwe, was allowed to appoint his nominee for the Saulspoort chieftainship, a practice that continued throughout the study period. From 1903, the Mochudi paramount and his Saulspoort representative used this opportunity to unite their geographically divided people and accrue benefits for them. The international border notwithstanding, the Mochudi chief wielded enormous influence upon his people in the Pilanesberg; indeed, nothing important could be carried out there without his approval. The Bakgatla's consistent focus was to maintain their unity in the face of the border's restrictions and government efforts to divide them. The first two decades after the South African War saw unprecedented Bakgatla prosperity, partly from the looted cattle, and partly from crop production on both their own as well as absentee-owned white farms. Absentee landownership, a major characteristic of the Pilanesberg, enabled Bakgatla producers to maximise production and become prosperous during the first two decades following the South African War; hence, the prevalence of labour tenancy in the Pilanesberg and not, for example, sharecropping which existed elsewhere in the Transvaal. Another feature of the 1920s was the Bakgatla's success in establishing and running their own school in Saulspoort which provided a much more secular education than that of the DRC.
- Humanities